Monday, 31 March 2014

Location Update: Rebecca crosses into Russia

Rebecca has crossed from Belarus to Russia and is now close to her breeding site. She was in Wales on 14th March and has stopped over in Slovakia and Belarus on her journey to Russia.


Friday, 28 March 2014

Calling all Woodcock Watch sponsors

As our newly tagged woodcock begin to leave these shores, we would be very interested to know what interests you most about our work with this fascinating species and why you choose to support it?

Whether it’s the elusive nature of this wonderful bird, the remarkable distances it can travel or a more personal reason, we would love to hear from you.

A selection of responses will be printed in the Summer issue of our Gamewise magazine.

Please send your comments to

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

New woodcock location updates just in

We've received a number of exciting new location updates today from our migrating woodcock:

Rebecca didn't stay in Slovakia long. She's corrected her course and is now in Belarus. She's not far from her Russian summer home.

Lanyon has left Cornwall and is now in Belarus. If she repeats last year's migration, then Western Russia will be her final destination.

Remy is the first of the Scottish birds to move and is currently in Southern Sweden. Probably heading for Latvia as she did in 2013.

St. Brendan left Ireland on the 10th March, was in Poland by the 20th and is now up in Latvia where he spent summer 2013.

Have you met our new woodcock? Click here to see them and track their journeys.

Meet our new woodcock and track them online

After a very busy period of catching and tagging we're pleased to announce that our newly tagged woodcock are now online, meaning you can track their amazing journeys using our interactive map.

Our new woodcock


Female, caught in West Wales on 4th March 2014.


Caught in Islay, West Scotland on 20th March 2014.

Caught in Islay, West Scotland on 20th March 2014.


Male, caught in Wiltshire on 9th March 2014.

Monkey III

Caught in Sussex on 8th March 2014.


Female, caught in Islay, West Scotland on 20th March 2014.

Monkey III
Caught in Hampshire on 18th March.


Female, caught in Durham on 19th March 2014.


Female, caught in Cornwall on 27th February 2014.


Male, caught in Somerset on 3rd March.


Male, caught in Lincolnshire on 6th March 2014.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Artist donates 100% of proceeds to Woodcock Watch

Renowned artist Owen Williams is kindly donating 100% of proceeds coming from sales of his limited edition signed woodcock print to our Woodcock Watch project.

'Flushed Woodcock' print measuring 45 x 35.5cm
Just 250 of these signed prints have been produced and we only have a few remaining.

You can order your print today from the GWCT shop for just £45.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Upcoming Talk: Woodcock - Revealing the Secrets

Our very own Dr Andrew Hoodless and renowned artist Owen Williams of the Woodcock Network will delight London with their extensive knowledge of woodcock on Tuesday 25 March 2014 at the Royal Air Force Club.

Dr Hoodless is currently leading our woodcock research and has 20 years of experience and Owen Williams’ knowledge of the small bird is extensive. Our Woodcock Watch project has produced many new insights into the extraordinary travels of this amazing bird, but funds are required to complete the satellite tracking programme and to study winter site fidelity and cold weather. For this reason Ted Clive will be conducting a small auction after the talk where we are hoping to raise money towards this worthy cause.

Please come and join us for drinks and canap├ęs to learn more about this fascinating bird.

Event details
Venue: The Royal Air Force Club, 128 Piccadilly, London
Date: 25 March 2014
Time: 6:00PM to 9:00PM
Tickets: £30 each - click here to book your tickets >

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Sunny weather leads to glut of new location data

We've received a rush of new location data including information from birds who we haven't heard from in a while. The sunnier weather has obviously recharged the satellite tags so we can gladly share the following location updates:


Tagged in 2012, Rebecca is in Wales for a 3rd Winter having travelled to western Russia.

St. Brendan

Last heard from in October, St. Brendan has sent data from his winter site in Cork, Ireland having returned from Latvia.


Having left East Yorkshire on the 3rd March, Olwen was in Denmark by the 5th. Now she's on the Sorve Peninsula in Estonia!


More data has been received from Crugith's location close to her catching site in Cornwall after her return from Siberia.

Monday, 10 March 2014

The capture and tagging of 'Smithy'

Jerry Barnes & Dr Andrew Hoodless
Jerry Barnes, Chairman of the Bristol and North Somerset branch of the GWCT and a partner in the Landed Estates team at accountancy and investment management firm Smith & Williamson, describes the antics associated with the satellite tagging of ‘Smithy’ – the latest bird to join the exciting Woodcock Watch project – at his shoot near Bristol.

At around 9pm on Monday, 3 March, woodcock expert Dr Andrew Hoodless, my keeper Andrew Waygood, two very knowledgeable Frenchmen and I parked up by the side of a small lane in the pitch darkness. It was a fairly moonless night with a clear sky and hardly a breath of wind.  Apparently not great conditions for sneaking up on such a wary bird as the nocturnal woodcock!

A quick sweep over the hedge into the nearby field identified a pair of faint pink eyes.  Dr Hoodless leapt into action with a lamp and a 15 foot net.  However, as soon as he set foot in the field he spotted another flicker from his lamp and went after what we assumed was another bird. Within five minutes he was back at the truck (we hadn’t moved!) with a shoe bag carefully grasped in his hand.   This turned out to be Smithy - a mature, adult male woodcock in excellent condition. After much back slapping, Smithy was measured and weighed.  Then came the very technical matter of fitting a customised satellite navigation tag. 

The French chaps had front row seats for this as they wanted to take this technology back with them so they can trace woodcock from their breeding grounds in north-eastern Europe back to Brittany – or so they hope.   After much adjusting of the harness and, I believe, a little super glue, Smithy was fitted with a very swish back pack complete with a solar panel for power and a long aerial.

Smithy sporting his new tag

After about 10 minutes and a few good luck messages, Dr Hoodless took him back into the darkness for a quiet few minutes before releasing him.   Dr Hoodless told us we’d been very lucky as usually it would be cold, wet and windy and they’d have to endure many unsuccessful attempts before finding a suitable candidate for the tagging.  And here we were, less than an hour into the night with the job done and I hadn’t even stepped into a field yet!

Filled with enthusiasm and optimism, my keeper Andrew Waygood and I demanded to find some more birds so off we all set to the other end of the moor, leaving Smithy to get on with his breakfast in peace.   Two hours later, after much yomping over very wet ground, mostly in the dark, we had found, ringed and released another three woodcock.  We watched many snipe take off from around us. They looked very eerie in the spotlight, upset a few roosting pheasants and a couple of snoozing mallards quacked to show their annoyance. Mr Fox was spotted in the distance too.

It was getting colder and a breeze had picked up, but it was hardly uncomfortable – that is with the exception of my left leg which had disappeared well over my knee into a particularly smelly bit of peaty bog, nicely filling my welly.  An hour or so of that and I took the earliest opportunity to exit the search, at about midnight.  The rest of the party stayed on for another hour or so and ringed one more healthy bird before heading for home – and probably un verre de vin.

It was a thrilling experience and a privilege to see these remarkable and beautiful birds in their natural environment on a dark night, feeding in the wet soil.   Being a Cornishman, I have been aware of these birds all my life, having seen them fly in to feed at dusk and surprised them under a holly bush in the woods during the day.  They are magical but to add to that, their story of a migration all the way to Finland or Siberia and back is truly remarkable.

On my own shoot it was great to see such an abundance of woodcock – around 25 before midnight. They were mostly mature birds that we hope will make it back to the breeding grounds and return again next winter – hopefully to my fields!

Location Update: Wensum returns to favourite spot in Germany

New data from Wensum shows she's currently in Lower Saxony in Germany, very close to where she stopped over on her journey back west. The map below shows her current location in relation to where she stopped in January. The data we have for Wensum indicates that she never returned to the UK, getting as far as the north west of Holland before turning back.

It's possible that Wensum usually winters in Germany. We caught her in Norfolk during cold weather last year and she may only have been in East Anglia briefly whilst conditions were harsher on the continent.


Location Update: Crugith returns and Olwen back off to Russia already?

We're pleased to confirm that Crugith has returned safely to Cornwall from Siberia. She may have been back some time with her reappearance due to her tag recharging, as we speculated back in February.

We've received interesting new data from Olwen, one of our birds tagged in Wales. Having returned from Russia to winter in Yorkshire it seems Olwen has already left the UK and is currently in Glesborg, Denmark.

Track Olwen's journey in more details here >

Monday, 3 March 2014

Location Update: Lanyon back in Cornwall

It’s great to see that Lanyon’s tag has started working again and is transmitting data from her capture site in South Cornwall. This comes after several months of silence; our last fix from Lanyon was from Poland in mid-November.

It seems likely that this sudden return is due to a boost in battery power; the solar-powered tag must be recharging in the slightly brighter conditions.

As chance would have it, we were in Cornwall last week, trying to catch woodcock for our geolocators study. Though night-time conditions were wet and windy, there were some pleasant sunny spells during the day, and this extra sunshine is probably responsible for Lanyon’s revival.

It won’t be long until our winter visitors are leaving again. It would be very interesting to track Lanyon’s spring migration for a second year, to see how it compares to that of 2013. Fingers crossed the sunny conditions will continue and Lanyon will keep in touch this spring!

Find out more about Lanyon >